When it comes to hacking yourself, anyone can code
We are, and always have been manipulating our biology, just with a greater or lesser conscious effort. Every time we eat, we change our biology. And every time we go outside, the Sun’s UV rays can directly impact our DNA.
We sleep, we exercise, we stare at screens (Oh no, the blue light is burning my soul!) – all of which affect our internal workings. Newton’s 3rd law states; ‘for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction’, It’s just that now we're beginning to understand exactly what does what. And that discipline is called Biohacking: The art of positively manipulating your own biology.
A complex system with no instructions
Hacking your biology is about seeing yourself as a complex system and by carefully manipulating the inputs, you can change the outputs in a desired way – and literally anyone can do it.
However, this isn't like computer programming where you can pick up a piece of code from Github, dump it a program and see it behave exactly how it’s supposed to. Oh no, Apply the same method to your body, and you'll get some wildly unpredictable results.
Why? Well, we don’t know what systems we are running. It’s not like you can go to the settings tab and check which version you have – or update to the latest greatest version with a quick download. But all is not lost; you can get a few clues to your hardware with a simple DNA test from companies like 23andME or DNAfit.
Other than that, be prepared for a lot of trial and error. The phrase often used in the biohacking community is ‘N equals 1’: Meaning you are a unique individual and what works for you may only work for you.
Results over methodology
Those familiar with the scientific approach know that you should only ever change one variable at a time and measure it carefully before changing the next one. Well, that would be okay if you have a few lifetimes to wait for your personal Eureka moment. But, if you want results you can actually benefit from during this lifetime, you may want to throw the scientific method out the window and literally change everything you can in one go.
Once you’ve achieved your desired outcome, you can begin to add things back in one at a time until you stumble across the variable that seems to have the greatest impact. But to be honest, it seems that it’s usually the combination of variables – rather than just any single variable – creating change. So if you are getting a positive outcome, you may be better leaving things alone. We are, after all, complex machines!
Start by simply adding some fat to your morning coffee
Bulletproof coffee – the brainchild of bio-hacking legend Dave Asprey – is probably the most famous bio-hack out there and a great place to start. It involves adding grass-fed butter and a particular strain of MCT oil to your perfectly percolated mould-free morning coffee and skipping the usual breakfast to create a 16 –18 hour fasting window.
The benefits are reportedly vast, but many are primarily caused by increasing ketones in the body via the high fat content, which will in-turn provide your brain a cleaner fuel for the day ahead without knocking your body out of fasting mode. Why is this important? Because it’s during the fasting stage that your body cleans damaged cells through a process called Autophagy.
Being in a state of ketosis (burning fat for fuel) has also being shown to have incredible brain benefits too and is also cited as something which can reduce cancerous tumour growth. As an amateur biohacker, I am simply not qualified to talk about such things and therefore I just encourage those interested to do their own research into this exciting area.
So, does drinking a cup of fatty coffee work? Well for me, ‘yes’ and that’s because I don’t process carbs all that well (my DNAfit test said so) and therefore Ketones give me an alternative, longer lasting energy source. I simply don’t get hungry and it’s a surprisingly tasty alternative to breakfast.
The data is the key
Personal success passed on anecdotally to others is fun – it’s also how things have been done for millennia (aka, ‘old wives tales’). But for this field to truly take giant leaps forward, we must collect and analyse the huge amounts of population data now being generated. And the race is on for companies to be the repository for this data: from collecting your daily steps, to measuring blood ketone levels, to mapping an entire human genome.
But is making your most personal data, your genetic code, available to profit-hungry corporations something you’re ready for? Anecdotally I’d say it’s an even split. 50% of people I talk to think sharing this data will result in their evil twin being cloned in weeks. Whereas the other half (yes, me) are so intrigued by what’s possible, we’re willing to take the risk – and fight that evil twin to the death in the name of progress.